The Letters of John Sutherland, 1942-1956
From the beginning, John Sutherland recognized that his literary gifts lay in criticism rather than in poetry. His independence from the academy and his largely autodidactic training gave him a unique perspective as a critic of Canadian literature. What these letters document, beyond a purely personal struggle, is a period (1942–1956) of great importance in the development of Canadian poetry, and it is above all the nuts and bolts of that development that they bring into keen relief: the economics of publishing books and literary magazines in the days before The Canada Council, and the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of trying wholly to live a life in literature at that time.
BRUCE WHITEMAN is a poet, critic, and librarian at McLennan Library, McGill University.